Local Activists Voice Opinions on Domestic Violence

cover Covercollage: Orda.kz

On November 22, members of the feminist movement and human rights activists gathered at the office of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights to once again declare that domestic violence in the Republic of Kazakhstan needs to be criminalized. Orda looked into the matter

Saltanat Nukenova’s death is indeed a high-profile case, but far from the only such homicide in Kazakhstan. According to UN estimates, about 400 women are killed by their husbands in Kazakhstan every year. Meanwhile, hundreds more suffer from systematic abuse and sexual violence.

At the same time, domestic violence, if it is a slight harm to health, is still considered an administrative offense. 

Just Two 

After Saltanat Nukenova’s death, the Ministry of Internal Affairs recalled that in May and July of this year, the punishment for domestic violence was toughened in the Republic of Kazakhstan. They have made the reconciliation procedure more sophisticated and changed the methods for combating domestic violence to a preventive nature as opposed to one involving statements to the police.

But the punishment for it, for the most part, has not gone beyond the administrative code. The maximum that an abuser can get for causing minor harm to health is a 25-day arrest for repeated offenses. At the same time, if slight harm to health or abuse is inflicted on "a person who is in family and household relations with the offender," then said offender can generally get off with a warning.

A warning is issued for a family conflict during which they use obscene language, break dishes and furniture.

According to the activists, the changes adopted in May and June of this year are not enough.

In 2022, Toqayev promised to toughen the punishment for domestic violence. But, Forgive me, increasing the arrest for domestic abusers from five days to 10 is not considered toughening,feminist and human rights activist Aigerim Kusayynkyzy said. 

Those gathered shared the same position in this regard - domestic violence should be criminalized, i.e., punishment for all its forms should be prescribed in the Criminal Code like in the United States and European countries.

They tell me that half of the country will go to prison because of this. They won’t. As a grandmother will whisper! (Russian saying that roughly means a cure-all - Ed.) One or two high-profile sentences of up to 25 years, (They - Ed.) will calm down because force recognizes only force, said human rights activist, feminist, president of the public foundation "Institute of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities of KazakhstanMargarita Uskembayeva.

According to her, the relevant law is already being prepared in Parliament and she calls for its support. But at the same time, in her opinion, the document should prescribe the responsibility not only of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but also of other departments: the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, even the Ministry of Education for cases when children with traces of abuse come to schools.

Aigerim Kusayynkyzy also proposes to prescribe the concept of femicide in the criminal code. She believes that what is happening in Kazakhstan can be called this.

According to international law, femicide is the killing of women just because they are women. We should regard such homicides as gender crimes. Therefore, the reasons for the killing of women and men are different, says Kusayynkyzy.

She emphasizes that Kazakhstani women's lives are not protected by the law "On the Prevention of Domestic Violence" adopted in 2009, the Constitution, or the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Republic of Kazakhstan became a party of the latter 25 years ago.

The Abuser

According to Margarita Uskembayeva, Saltanat Nukenova’s death has demonstrated that it is incorrect to believe that domestic violence in the Republic of Kazakhstan is primarily in villages and only affects rural women from less fortunate families. Saltanat was successful and from a wealthy family. Her husband, former Minister Kuandyk Bishimbayev, is suspected of killing her. And it all happened in the capital.

According to the psychotherapist Zhanar Danenova, in 2020-2021 they implemented the project "Center for Working with Aggressors" in the Almaty region and also conducted a practical research.

One of the main signs of a typical aggressor is that they themselves have experienced violence and abuse in the past and compensate for their psychological trauma.

Zhanar Zhanenova named other signs as well:

  • Infantilism and the desire to blame others for their problems
  • Low self-esteem, because of which he tries to rise by humiliating another person
  • The presence of fears, which is why aggression is always directed at people weaker
  • Lack of empathy for other people
  • Deceitfulness
  • Attempts to isolate their victims from others.
When a young man, a future or present spouse tries to isolate you from friends, colleagues, close relatives, then for any young woman it should be the first sign — you have entered the field of activity of an aggressor,  says Zhanar Zhanenova.

Kuandyk Bishimbayev seems to fit the description in the last point. Saltanat Nukenova’s friends have claimed that he forbade her to communicate with friends.

Be Kinder

People commenting on the situation around Bishimbayev in social networks bring forward an argument in his defense - provocation on the victim's part.

They write in social networks that he was allegedly in a heat of passion. But this state lasts for a few seconds, it cannot last for several hours. And, according to what Orda.kz has written, Saltanat was in agony for several hours while he was around all this time,
 says Margarita Uskembayeva.

According to her, Bishimbayev’s alleged alcohol or drug intoxication may end up as a mitigating circumstance. Although by law, any form of intoxication is an aggravating circumstance.

Uskembayeva fears that such sentiments may become a reason for mitigating the punishment. She, in turn, just wants a fair investigation and trial.

Nurzhamal Iminova, a member of the Ray of Light regional network of civil society organizations, said that victim blaming is very characteristic of Kazakhstan’s society. The phenomenon, frankly speaking, is unhealthy. And coupled with mild punishments for domestic violence, it generates a sense of impunity.

For some types of violence, we have no punishment at all. For example, sexual harassment at work. Or stalking, an obsessive harassment, that many divorced women face from former husbands, says Nurzhanal Iminova.

She states the fact that there is no such thing as zero tolerance for violence against women and children in the value system of Kazakhstan’s society. Unfortunately, this is perceived by a part of society as something normal.

The press conference’s participants presented real-life examples. In Mangystau, a mother encouraged her son to assault her daughter-in-law in front of her. And a resident a southern region was initially physically abused by her father. This was later followed by her husband beginning to subject her to abuse, which resulted in three miscarriages. The young woman later escaped, but has not filed a statement to the police. She fears that his family members will kill her.

Coordinator of the public foundation "Mother's House" Manat Kisetova sees the indifference of others as another reason for such situations.

First of all, the indifference of neighbors. Tragedies happen because we don't want to know what's going on the other side of the wall. But you can just pick up the phone and dial 102, or 111 — the crisis center, or 150 — the call center of the support service, and say that abuse is happening at the neighbors’, or in the yard. But we don't do that,says Manat Kisetova. 

And the appeal that she would like to convey to Kazakhstanis is simple: "be kinder to each other.”

Original Author: Igor Ulitin

DISCLAIMER: This is a translated piece. The text has been modified, the content is the same. Please refer to the original piece in Russian for accuracy.

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